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February 27, 2006



speaking of AWIP, where the fuck did it go? Red Flags is great, but can't do everyone a board can.


we need a new AWIP!

Ya think

Repeater says: "it is the case that Avakian, to put it in simple terms, is THE leader not just A leader. The vast majority of people are made uncomfortable by this."

Uncomfortable is one word for it, amused is another.

Avakian is the maximum leader of a relatively small organization with an exagerated sense of its own importance.

The reason every discussion where Avakian come up becomes a "referendum" on his cult of personality is because to most people I know who've met the RCP -- that's what it is: a group fixated on promoting their leader because he's really extra-special... and shit.

We get enough church and crap already. I'm not going to live, fight and die to make avakian a fucking dictator and that's just not going to happen.


Lao Hong Han

I'm surprised nobody else added to the list of public RCP figures Raymond Lotta, their go-to guy on questions of political economy. He and Carl Dix are the only ones you'll find included with Avakian in the "MLM" tab on the RCP website. While he may not have the highest profile, he does a fair maount of public speaking and is often cited and asked about by Maoists in other countries, even those who express reservations about the RCP.

a comment


when the usual suspects gush their prejudices on leadership, the main thing that happens is that the content and level of the discussion plunges close to zero.

"I don't like it, everyone i know doesn't like it..."

It is a small point that, for some, should blot out everything else. Like their personal mental sit-down strike.

Ok. You have made your point, if a dozen online forums, in the same way. And by now, it is as tiresome as it is wrong.

Burningman: can't you create a thread where they group and gripe together about the "cult of personality," and so we can have a separate thread that actually discusses analysis, content, line, and developments in M'ism?


The typical, and cliche RCP response to any criticism of the cult of personality: "it's just a handful of intellectuals! The masses of people understand the need for it!" Wrong on both accounts. In my days as an RCP supporter a lot of different people pointed out and complained about the silliness of it. They like Revolution (and Revolution is really good, even with the really creepy and goofy "Our Leader is Bob Avakian!" block on the first page.) but said often there should be more of a variety of spotlights on people. And this could be done, because there are a lot of brilliant people in the RCP (like Sunsara, Joe Veale, Carl Dix, etc.) but everythings always got be about Bob.

a comment

not to get into a "back and forth" -- i am not the one raising "educated white guys" as a blanket putdown. (Though you were eager to play in that park, above.)

And there is not hint in my remarks about "just a bunch of intellectuals." I respect intellectuals and don't use that word as a putdown or as a "problem people." So please don't put words in my mouth, as you rant in your misplaced angry tone (and, by the way, while you really don't engage a single argument raised by those you disagree with).

Lao Hong Han

I don’t agree with the tone and, I suspect, the thinking behind the “usual suspects” comments observer posted earlier this morning, nor do I personally find this a particularly pressing issue for revolutionary socialist forces in the US at the present time, but I agree that this leadership sub-thread or theme or whatever it should be called isn’t producing much useful at the moment.

It may well be that the lines here are too divergent and the emotional stakes too high to learn much, but might it not be worthwhile to have a discussion based on some document or particular set of theses, which relate the general (the challenge of Red leadership) to the particular (the importance of establishing the authority of individual leaders in revolutionary organizations) to the really particular (BA)?

I hope that repeater may provide the way to go by following through on the promise in a post above:

“I don't at this point have my ideas fully worked out around this issue, but I hope to, in the coming weeks, write out my ideas relating to questions of leadership, Avakian's role as a leader, as well as the content of that leadership.”

Two really particular questions I’d like to see addressed in such a discussion have struck me in thinking about this series of posts.

First, what are geniuses and how do they come into being—is some inborn essence the principal aspect (of the nature/nurture contradiction, if you’ll forgive the extreme shorthand) or are the effects of the external environment?

Second, it'd be nice to have some exegesis on the following comment from john‘s post above:

“Let me put it historically. It was very unfortunate that Lenin's line did not have more influence in the communist movement of his time. Things might have been different if HE and HIS WRITINGS (i.e. his breakthroughs in opposition to the dominant thinking of the movement of his time) had been promoted better and taken up in Germany, Italy, Hungary, or wherever in addition to Russia -- where it was also a long and constant fight to break with the longstanding axioms inherited from their world movement.

The idea is not 'You need a cult of Lenin in Russia, but a cult of Liebknecht in Germany, and a cult of Debs in the U.S.'

Uh-uh. This is not some pragmatic organizational marketing trick for each country and each party, where they label their leaders ideas a "thought" and market him/her.


The point really is that Avakian is the kind of unique and irreplacable leader who emerges only very rarely and kicks both the science of Marxism and potentially the practice of millions in moments of crisis."

This raises some interesting points. What is the difference between this and the problems of the Comintern cited by Mao and by the RCP, and similarly, what is the difference between this and the ultra-left “China’s Chairman Is Our Chairman” slogan that many of us feel did varying degrees of damage among rising anti-revisionist forces around the world in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s?


I think all the issues on display are matters of line. Even tone. And the matters of “tone” are not just “how should we treat each other” -- but more importantly, on the part of, say, celticfire it represents a view that his insistance of “control from below” is simply beyond discussion or justification. I suggest that we not let the tone beocme contageous, and try to identify and grapple over the quesitons of line.

Chris raises discussoins of Foucault and Gramsci, and remarks that Avakian has not publicly commented on either one. Ok. On one level, it seems like a strange line of argument -- after all Avakian has just gone into Derrida, Kant, John Stueart Mill, and so on. And you can't exactly condemn a communist leader because his political writings don't parallel your current reading list.

But I assume Chris is not raising that petty argument. Here is what I think underlies this: Avakian is working on developing an integrated synthesis. He views Marxism as a science, as method, worldview and a body of scientifically developed verdicts and strategic insights. And I have the feeling that Chris is arguing for something much more eclectic and pragmatic (in the philosophical sense) -- where ideas grabbed from here or there as they are found and then wielded as convenient WITHOUT synthesizing them into a single developing worldview. Others in this thread have insisted “you can't really know anyway” -- in other words raising questions, in a philosophically agnostic way, about whether humans can deeply grasp the dynamics and trendlines in human events, and then change them ON THAT BASIS. If you really don't think that a coherent, integrated science of revolution is possible, then human knowledge and theory becomes a grabbag of ideas that can be picked up, and discarded piecemeal, as needed.

It struck me that when people discussed “Marxism embraces but does not replace” the work in the many spheres of human endeavor -- that people were working from different definitions of “embrace.”

Embrace has two meanings that are relevant here:
1) espouse: take up the cause, ideology, practice, method, of someone and use it as one's own
2) include in scope; include as part of something broader; have as one's sphere or territory;

When Chris refers to “embrace but does not replace” he complains that the communist don't do enough “embracing” -- and it seems like he means embrace in the first sense.

But when I say “embrace but does not replace” i am using it in the second sense. I.e. That Marxism encompasses but does not replace, that it is relevant, it can incorporate these spheres, but not by replacing the particularly of what happens there.

I think the difference here reflects two very different lines on whether Marxism is a science, and on how revolutoinary communists should approach the intellectual developments and explorarions in many spheres (art, biology, architecture, logistics, whatever).

As avakian says, we can't just think because we are marxists we are “know it alls” who have the answers in diverse spheres without any sense of the profound particularities and even disctinct insights developing there (through the work of others.) But this does not mean that our approach is simply to adopt, espouse, take up those insights uncritically. It is a matter of synthesis and struggle.

john roh

Celticfire's remarks are really mainly heated and exasperated restatements of his views, as if his insistance on formal electoral democracy is obviously correct, and as if the arguments many people are raising don't deserve the time of day. He even says that they seem totalitarian to him. Ok.

Some one says

**what is an example of the RCP not applying the mass line?**

Celticfire yells back “there is a whole website devoted to this!!”

Wow, really? A whole website?!

I won't beat on Celticfire's weaknesses beyond saying that this simply ignores the struggle over line.

Scott's website is not devoted to the **communist** mass line, but to a call for tailing spontaneity.

For Scott the mass line is a leadership method that bases itself on identifying what the masses already understand and uphold and then basing communist work on that. This hold-up-a-mirror to the masses is not unique to him, it is a view of "mass line" promoted repeatedly by people fighting for a social democracy turn away from communism. This is a prescription for reformism and capitulation, not communist work.


Does Avakian's synthesis represent something important and new in marxism?

Is it inconceivable that new things are being struggled out, not just because there are new things to sum up but because someone is putting it all together in new and more profoundly scientific ways?

Are we even allowed to discuss this?

Some people are saying "communists shouldn't promote their top leaders this way."

But it depends on what those top leaders are saying and doing. If their top leader is a Rosa Luxemburg, or a Ho Chi Minh, then they should not promote them that way, because these leaders, though revolutionary and making real contributions, did not grasp key theoretical and ideological and strategic issues of their times and ours.

Was it wrong to view Mao as the leader of the world revolution in the 60s? Yes.

To call that "ultra-left" is exactly to reject the leap Mao brought into Marxism. He was not just "defending revolution," and he was not just "leading in China." He was taking Marxism to a new place, and to be a Marxist-Leninist required and now requires being a Maoist.

There is a strange but related discussion here about how much promience various spokespeople and writers among the RCP get.

But look... the work and struggle of Bob Avakian is the reason the RCP exists and is revolutionary.

His contribution is and has been unique.

Pretending “we are all equal here” would not be true.

Other people in the communist movement have their role and contributions to unfold, and they have some skills, insights, knowledge, and even styles. But they are able to make those contributions in the context of the overall line that is being fought for.

These are conclusions which I think flow from objective facts, including the history of real events.

There is an article on this by Lenny Wolff really worth reading and thinking about: I won't degrade this article by pulling out a quote, but I think it gets into this question of having a collective leadership continue to travel with someone who is blazing the trail in unique ways.

It is not like the RCP has some job (“chairman of the board”) that is for now occupied by Bob Avakian,, and will at some other point be occupied by someone else.

And its not like the RCP thinks that it is “useful,” in some utilitarian way, for communist parties to promote their “top leader” -- and so they promote their current leader. No. No. No.

Avakian is the leader of the RCP -- making unique and irreplacable contributions to the practice and theory of that party and the larger movement it is part of.

That is OBJECTIVELY what the situation is. That's what the facts show. And it is important for communists and the oppressed to know those facts, so they can better play their role in the revolutionary process -- which includes both actually grasping what he is developing and help it become a material force, and also so that they can create the conditions where such a leadership is able to play its role all the way through whatever now comes.

In opposition to this, i see two arguments:

first the people don't need someone to synthesis the revolutionary road and science, they just need the conditions where their political agency is unleashed, and the promotion of key leaders hurts and restrains that political agency.

And second, even if this is true, don't dare say so, because people just won't accept it.

This second argument is an example of the long legacy of “political truth” that the RCP wants to reject.

For example, someone just objected to the RCP's “3 Ours” which includes the line “Our leader is Bob Avakian.”

Well, on what basis can you POSSIBLE object to this?

Obviously not on the basis that it isn't true, since it is OBVIOUSLY true. It is objected to on the basis that -- whether true or not -- it is impolitic, at least in certain circles who bristle over any discussion of individual communist leaders.

Avakian is bringing forward a new synthesis, based on decades of work evaluating both communist theory and revolutionary experience. Now the RCP obviously thinks this is a major contribution to the science of revolution. And there are two different methodological responses to this-- one grapples with what he is saying and with the question of whether it is correct and whether it represents and important leap. The other response seems to say, over and over, “there are things that are so politically offensive to the folks I surround myself with that you must not say them, whether they are true or not.”

These are two very different approaches to truth -- and this second approach advocates a methodology and set of verdicts that contrast sharply with the “passion for truth” that forms such an important part of Avakian's synthesis.


If there is a revolution, it is because his line has been grasped and applied. And because he is at the helm of the events.

Some people may think this goes against how they wish the world worked, or the revolution looked like. But it is either true or not.

the burningman

Is Celticfire arguing for "formal democracy" in the bourgeois parliamentary, electoral sense?

Or is he saying that an unaccountable party dictatorship misses the essentional nature of revolutionary socialist transformation?

The conflation of these two distinct ideas may not serve this discussion well.

Here's a way to cut to the chase on this discussion, and I'm interested in the answer:

Can you be a revolutionary communist without engaging in the promotion of a cult of personality?

At least one member party in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement says so -- and calls it "taking a clue from the 20th Century."

I'll also note that more than one person in this discussion is saying that, yes -- Avakian is an important leader in the communist movement, with revolutionary commitment and insight. But... that doesn't mean that the cult of personality is THEN justified because THIS is a personality that justifies such a cult.

The choice is not between some anarcho-liberalism and a Supreme Servant of the People getting the reins in HIS hands so the rest of us can be GRANTED liberation.


Burningman writes:

"Can you be a revolutionary communist without engaging in the promotion of a cult of personality?"

This is a very strange way to put post the question. Even bizarre.

As if every communist must find some personality to build a cult around?

Nah, that ain't the deal. There is not some abstract rule that requires this.

In fact, there have been times when (unfortunately) there have been no leaders that concentrate the way forward, where key issues are lying there unsolved, where all kinds of bullshit reigns among communists.

For example in the late 1800s and for a decade into the 1900s, there was no leadership among socialists that pointed in a revolutionary and communist way toward revolution.

Once lenin emerged, and his body of work matured, and his key theses had been developed in opposition to the revisionists of the Second International... then Lenin, and his contributions to Marxism, became a dividing line.

By the 1920s, it was not possible to say someone was truly a communist, if they were not upholding and struggling to grasp the contributions that had made the Russian revolution possible.

Similarly, in the forties and fifties, there were real problems with promoting Stalin, his method and his body of work as the highest reaches of Marxism. In a beginning way, Mao was already creating a different pole within the communist movement, and already it was important to recognize that Mao's work represented a real leap over what had previously been considered ML.

And when such moments emerge, to hold to an earlier synthesis (like the synthesis that held the Second International together before WW1, or the third international before WW2) was increasingly not just "wrong" in the abstract. Once a better and more correct line had emerged, holding onto that old synthesis represented a line and a road in opposition to proletarian revolution.

This not a religion, where the foundations are set, and all that remains is "applying." This is a living science, and straining to keep moving with new developments is required of communists.

We are now in the 21st century.

We can't just repeat what was done in previous socialist societies. We can't just go to the masses promising to repeat what they did.

And in particular Avakian has pointed to a lack of vitality, debate and intellectual life that in varying degress developed in previous societies. A locked down aspect. Where everyone had to claim to uphold Marxism, while they obviously didn't all.

I don't want to try to capsulize here what Avakian is saying about this. But I do think that his warning that if we don't make these summations "even if we seize power, we won't do anything good with it."

This is an important warning. Can you be a communist if you don't strain to sum up these experiences by really digging into what he is bringing up and bringing out?

If we don't break from this whole legacy of white-wash, blindspots and "political truths," if we don't learn from and adopt Avakian's method of actually looking honestly, fearless, deeply and scientifically at all questions, following the truth wherever it leads... can we be considered communists?

So, no, I don't think to be a communist one has toinvent some cult around some personality.

but I do think that when there are key questions on the table of history, we either recognize and take up the most advanced form that Marxism is taking, we wither grapple with these questions, or else we are in great danger whatever we do will "not do any good."

PS: in my previous post I made a typo.

I wrote: "Was it wrong to view Mao as the leader of the world revolution in the 60s? Yes."

But, I meant to write: "Was it wrong to view Mao as the leader of the world revolution in the 60s? No."

Burningman, could you fix that type for me, so it isn't so confusing?


this is in the form of a question.

Some people keep saying that the Nepalese Maoists are against the cult of personality.

Didn't their party centralize all power in Prachanda, and wasn't there a struggle over this which Bhattarai lost?

Didn't their party annaounce that its official ideology is Prachanda Path?

I am not saying they are wrong in any of this.

But why isn't this something you want to denounce as well?


part 2

I think that Avakian's contributions are a new synthesis, meaning that these are major developments of marxism, that involve both construction and destruction.

Many things that were assumed to be integral to MLM are being looked at a new, on the basis of keeping a bulldog grip on our larger communist goals, the need for the d of the p. etc.

After fighting to understand what he is saying, I think it is correct. And i think that upholding its opposite, including things that were assumed to be a "communist" view in the past, would be to take the wrong road.

He is going straight for the key questions of our times, key problems of our past, key challenges of our future -- and in that sense, i truly believe that this body of work, this approach and method are making exciting and necessary new advances that are helping to demarcate the dividing line for us, between marxism and revisionism.

I hope that answers your question, burningman.

the burningman

zz-top: No, all power is not centralized in the person of Prachanda. They have a central committee, which is larger than just a tag-team between Prachanda and Bhattarai.

(Where you got that rap, I'm not sure. Please provide some links, I haven't encountered it anywhere.)

They have further raised "freedom of criticism" as a result of the incorrect use of "administrative measures to settle political disputes," that being the suspension of Bhattarai and his wife.

Read back through the blog.

Further: I am in no way arguing against leadership. Prachanda has provided the collective summation of the Communist Party of Nepal, which was synthesized under his leadership. Nothing wrong with that.

The issue is understanding exactly the difference you are obscuring.

For example, the way in which you are discussing the rise of Lenin:

The Bolsheviks had no such rule that Lenin had to be upheld as the leader of the world revolution to join the nascient communist forces in, say, 1910. They just didn't. Marxism Leninism didn't make an appearance AS SUCH until after Lenin's death, the development of an entire communist power bloc and a break with imperial social-democracy. That split was IN NO WAY about the cult of personality, which was in fact built around the LIVING Stalin (and the mummified Lenin).

So again, to be clear -- I'm not talking about the BASIC political orientation, but rather a DISTINCT position which is the way in which leadership is approached and promoted.

The difference seems clear enough to me. I can't actually accept that John is arguing that anyone who doesn't accept such an "appreciative" position is ipso facto a "revisionist."

That would be insane, to put it politely.


john roh said: "He even says that they seem totalitarian to him."

Did I really say this? I posted a whole piece on my OWN blog about how I don't believe in totalitarianism, and I really doubt I called it totalitarian, at least, seriously.

"as if the arguments many people are raising don't deserve the time of day." Hmm, kind of like people who skew other people's arguments in order to "disaprove them" some how -- like you are doing?

"Scott's website is not devoted to the **communist** mass line, but to a call for tailing spontaneity."

That is not what Scott has put on or elsewhere, he has however called for accountability. I can see why that would scare you.

And like you've done with my own arguments, you are twisting Scott's into something they are not and then denouncing what you twisted. That's a sad method of debate, and not very conducive to winning people over to your side.

You can argue against things I say or believe, but when you argue against things I haven't said -- then you're just punching air.

Am I really ignoring line, or am I challenging the RCP's line? Am I oblivious and erroneous, or struggling for proletarian orientation?

Is challenging leader-worship really an error?

next in line

Celtic Fire, it seems like you think an aspect of the RCP's overall good line is problematic to the point that it changes what they are. Or you are struggling with that issue.

Why is this insisted to be the discussion when that's not at all what the article is about?

Is it because the critics agree with it, but can't bring themselves into the orbit of the RCP for secondary issue elevated to the level of primacy?


I think the RCP is _one_ communist organization in the U.S., and it has some advantages and it has some flaws. I have pointed out the flaws and defended the correct things. Is that wrong?

You seem to accuse me of setting the debate towards flaws - I am really responsible for this? The "The New Situation and the Great Challenges" is principly revolutionary and correct.

The cult of personality and bueacratic centralism is not revolutionary and not correct.

Chris Day said: "One of the things that made me more receptive to reading Avakian again was Slavoj Zizek's introduction to the interviews with Bill Martin. The interviews themselves were a mixed bag, but Zizek's interest piqued mine. Again I suspect I'm not the only one. So what does Avakian (or anybody in the RCP for that matter) think about what Zizek is saying?"

I think that what you can see in Zizek's remarks are an appreciation for the primary contradiction and for those who are struggling with it. Zizek and Avakian would almost certainly disagree on a great deal, but on the necessity of reenvisioning the communist project both are in agreement. All secondary matters are exactly that, secondary.

Which brings me to my next point:

On the "New Situation" article "next in line" said, "Is it because the critics agree with it, but can't bring themselves into the orbit of the RCP for secondary issue elevated to the level of primacy?"

I think this is exactly the case, or at least I've seen it often enough to say that it is in play around these issues. But I believe that the people raising these secondary contradictions to primary contradictions make that mistake honestly at least in some cases, where in others it is a cover for their lack of principles and commitment to radically changing the world.

So for some the secondary really is primary, and it is a matter of them changing their methodology and world view for them to put these issues right-side-up, and for others the secondary is understood as secondary and it is a tactic, or method for controlling the flow of discussion and activism. This aspect is simply sectarianism.

I wanted to clarify the tone of my previous comment:

"That having been said, it is the case that Avakian, to put it in simple terms, is THE leader not just A leader."

While I tend to agree with this statement, I did not post it with the intention of throwing it out there as a statement of fact, but more objectively as the position that the RCP takes. It is the issue, and there is no way of bending this statement around or taking it to mean something else.

Of course how this is understood is an issue in and of itself.

Finally, I have to say that this discussion has significantly devolved, and it is unfortunate. Short commentator's "sucker" statement was an unfortunate example of saying something correct in an incorrect way, and ultimately of taking up an opposing methodology.

Having said this the defensive and subjective nature of celticfire's posts have been almost comepletely worthless to this discussion. To put it frankly everyone knows that "democracy" is good and "the great leader" is evil. A more boring statement couldn't be made at this stage. In other words tell me something I haven't heard, and perhaps listen (seriously) to something you have refused to hear.


I did it again. The above post is by me.


Pathetic. Instead of acutally challanging what I've said, you dismiss it, repeater. Avakian is not _THE_ leader of anything but a small clique who support self-aggrandizing leadership mystification. But, to be sure if I had expounded the greatness of the all-knowing Avakian, my posts would be worthy of interest?

This is really disappointing to find such low level attack from an alleged communist. Like I said Avakian is worth taking up critically, not making small busts of and praying to his almighty grandness.


Is stultifying Marxism the same as applying a living method? I don't think so. Avakian-worship is antithetical to what he is writing.


i have to say that i'm getting tired of celticfire's whole approach -- now calling someone "pathetic" etc.

on a factual level, celticfire's own method of argument (talking about non-existant busts of Avakian, and talking about non-existant praying to a man etc.) is the opposite of the kind of argumentation we need. It should be obvious that he and I disagree, but in fact we can't even join the argument because of his method. The above remark isn't even interesting, and doesn't even give the rest of us an insight into the source of Celticfire's pique.

It is boring, but worse, it brings this whole discussion down, down, down. Please stop posting things that don't even elucidate your own views and reasoning.


on a factual level, there is an real effort in the RCP's "culture of appreciation" to add the concept "without a hint of slavishness."

First "appreciation" is meant in the sense of getting a deep grasp of what is being said (not in the sense of "gee, thanks I appreciate that.") In other words, they think their party needs a "culture" of grappling deeply with these theoretical matters, and being steeped in the new synthesis (which is not simple or obvious, and which involves layers of contradiction.)

But "without a hint of slavishness" -- i.e. there is a strong argument being made about "self-interrogation" -- about having a scientific and critical attitude toward everything, including toward science and oneself.

Someone can insist over and over that upholding new developments of marxism must mean "worshiping" the person who is synthesizing those developments. But insisting don't make it so. Saying that this is "worship" is not factual. And in fact, the synthesis that Avakian is fighting for is opposing a long history of semi-religious thinking among communists.

There are levels at which that is pretty obvious: like in the explicit emphasis against religion per se.

But there is more to it. For example, the very idea of seeing Marxism as a "synthesis" is a breakthrough and a rupture. It breaks with notions that folks like Marx or Lenin were infallible, or that their work built on each other in some seamless and continuous way. Avakian makes remarks like "There is what lenin said and did, and then there is leninism." Meaning that sometimes lenin said and did things that we have to evaluate as stepping outside the framework of his larger contradictions.

All this is a fight against the religious within communist thinking.

Similarly there is a religious idea that marxism has all been laid down, like some previous revelation. As if it is fixed, settled and done. This too violates a scientific view of science.

And I think he is arguing hard for all this without falling into a view of grabbag eclecticism (which is ultimately both subjective idealist philosophically and very utilitarian toward ideas.)

However tempting it is, I don't want to respond to celticfire's repeated talk about "worship" in ways that further degrade this discussion. I just want to point out that Avakian is rupturing with religiousity, and the struggle to promote his synthesis is in many ways a fight against rather dogged religiousity that still exists among communists.

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